Making a Referral for a Foster Placement

See also: Placement Request Form and Child in Care External Placement Approval Form


Foster placements which offer substitute, family based care should be sought for a child when this has been identified as the most appropriate way of meeting that child's needs.

Children should be matched to placements taking into account their religious, cultural and other needs; the skills and experience of the carers; and the composition and location of their household.


The purpose of this procedure is:

  1. To ensure a child's needs are met; and
  2. To clarify the roles and responsibilities of staff.


This chapter was updated in July 2013 in line with the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review and Fostering Services (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2013, which came into force on 1 July 2013. Section 3, Placement Planning was added which includes information to be included in the Placement Plan for children in foster care.

1. Permission to Accommodate

No looked after foster placement can be arranged for a child unless agreement has been given by a senior manager - see: Decision to Look After Procedure.

Permission can be given by a Service Manager or the Head of Children's Social Care.

The referring worker should, at the time of the referral, give an indication as to the duration of the placement and a review date for any possible extension.

2. Making a Referral for Foster Care

2.1 For an Emergency Placement

It is advisable to provide as much advance notice as possible to the Fostering Team of a need for a placement. This should be done to the Placement Coordinator (PC) or Duty Worker during duty times or to the Fostering Team Manager or a Practice Manager at other times.

The Placement Request Form together with the authority to accommodate and any accompanying documentation as requested by the Fostering Team, should be forwarded to the Placement Coordinator or Duty Worker Fostering. This information is used to identify the most appropriate placement. See also: Matching in Foster Care Procedure.

The Placement Coordinator/Duty Worker will then search for a potential placement matching what is known about the child, the skills of carers' with vacancies and any behavioural, family composition or geographical considerations.

The priority would be to keep siblings together.

When a possible carer is identified, the social worker will be informed by the Placement Coordinator /Duty Worker. It is the responsibility of the social worker to decide whether the identified carer is suitable and will meet the needs of the child/ren to be placed.

If the placement is accepted, the child's social worker should contact the foster carer to arrange for the child to be taken to the foster carer and the time this will occur.

The Fostering Placement Coordinator/Duty Worker will:

  • Write up the referral on the monitoring form;
  • Make up a foster care file for the child (if there is not one already).

2.2 Planned Placement

A planning meeting should have occurred but the authority to accommodate is still required.

The Placement Request Form, together with the authority to accommodate and any requested accompanying documentation should be forwarded to the Fostering Team.

The Fostering Duty Worker will:

  • Write up the referral on the monitoring form;
  • Make up a foster care file for the child (if there is not one already).

The referral will be added to any waiting list and prioritised at that time.

Once a possible foster carer has been identified, the Fostering Social Worker for that carer will contact the referring worker.

Introductions will then follow.

3. Placement Planning

Before the child is placed, the child's social worker will arrange a Placement Planning Meeting after liaising with the foster carer and the foster carer's supervising social worker (who may be from an independent fostering agency). The meeting will usually be held in the new placement. See also: Placement Planning Meetings Procedure.

Participants will include:

  • The parent;
  • The child (if appropriate);
  • The foster carer;
  • The supervising social worker;
  • Any other relevant professionals, e.g. a representative from the child's school;
  • Anyone else considered appropriate or who will have a role in the placement.

The purpose of the first Placement Planning Meeting is to finalise the Placement Plan (which will be recorded on the Placement Information Record). This will involve a discussion of the child's needs to ensure careful matching, including the child's personal history, religious persuasion, cultural and linguistic background and racial origin, as well as the child's health and education needs and how these are to be met. It will also include the arrangements for registering the child with local health professionals (GP, dentist and optician).

In addition the placement planning meeting will consider the type of introduction process required, for example whether arrangements should be made for the child, parents and the social worker to visit the foster home and/or whether it may be appropriate to have an introductory overnight stay. Children should be able to visit the foster home and talk in private with the carer. If this is not possible, arrangements may be made for the carers to visit the child and parents; or for information about the foster carers to be sent to the child and/or the parents, for example about routines in the foster home, bedtimes, meals, visitors, pocket money, school, privacy and the overall expectations in relation to the child's behaviour within the home.

For children placed in foster care, the Placement Plan should cover the following issues in addition to those for all placements set out in the Decision to Look After Procedure:

  1. The type of accommodation to be provided and the address;
  2. The child's personal history, religious persuasion, cultural and linguistic background and racial origin;
  3. Where the child is Accommodated:
    • The respective responsibilities of the Local Authority and parents/anyone with Parental Responsibility;
    • Any delegation of responsibility by parents/anyone with Parental Responsibility to the Local Authority and /or the foster carer(s) in relation to the following matters ( and identifying any of these matters on which the local authority/parents/persons with Parental Responsibility consider that the child may make a decision): 
    • Medical and dental treatment;
    • Education;
    • Leisure and home life;
    • Faith and religious observance;
    • Use of social media;
    • Any other matters upon which the local authority/parents/others with parental responsibility consider appropriate;
    • The expected duration of the arrangements and the steps to bring the arrangements to an end, including arrangements for the child  to return to live with parents/anyone with Parental Responsibility;
    • Where the child  is aged 16 or over and agrees to being provided with accommodation under Section 20 Children Act 1989, that fact.
  4. Delegated authority paperwork should be completed;
  5. The Local Authority's arrangements for the financial support of the child during the placement;
  6. The obligation on the carers to comply with the terms of the foster care agreement.

The meeting also provides an opportunity to ensure that the foster carers have a copy of any relevant court order and that full information is shared with them about the child's needs and any behaviour management issues.

Except in emergency placements, the Placement Planning Meeting should be held before the placement.  Where this is not possible, it should be held at the latest within 5 working days of the placement.

The child's social worker will complete and arrange for the circulation of the Care Plan and Placement Plan to the child, parents and foster carers before or at the latest, within 5 working days of the placement.

At the time of the placement, the foster carers should also be given any additional information about details of the child's day to day needs which are not covered by the Placement Plan/Placement Information Record but are important to ensure that the carers are in the best possible position to help the child settle in the new placement, for example any particular fears at night-time or the child's favourite toys.

The child's social worker must provide the child and the parent with written information about coming into care, including information on using the Complaints Procedure.

In addition, as indicated above, the social worker should ensure that any other information about the placement that is available for the child is obtained and given to him/her. Children must understand house expectations before the placement is made.

4. Preparing a Child for Placement

The child should be prepared for any placement. This is to be done by the social worker or person who knows the child the best.

The child should be given opportunity to ask any questions about the placement. If this is a planned placement, it may be useful to use the foster carer's Fostering Social Worker to talk to the child about foster care and the identified foster carer. The child should be given 'The Children's Guide to Fostering'.

Unless a placement is made in an emergency, all children and their parents (if appropriate) should have met the foster carer and visited the foster home. The child should be able to talk to the carer in private. No planned placement should occur until the child has had time to think about the placement. Children must understand house expectations before the placement is made.

In emergency situations, the transfer to the foster home should be made in as relaxed way as possible. The child should be given the opportunity to pack their belongings so that they are able to take any comfort objects they wish.

In all cases, the child should be accompanied to the placement by the social worker and helped to settle in. Suitable luggage should be used and a child's belongings should never be transported in bin-bags or other inappropriate containers.

At the foster home, the worker (or parent) should remain until all introductions have been made and the child indicates that he/she is comfortable for the worker to leave. Distraction may be useful in helping the child settle.

At the end of a placement when they leave the home, children must be helped to understand the reasons and be supported with the transition, including return home and independence.

Foster carers must be supported to maintain links with children who leave their care.